How COVID-19 has changed cannabis consumers behavior

Published Jul 7, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Space_Cat

The pandemic has turned much of the world upside down, causing businesses to go under, mass unemployment, and a public health scare, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. These are uncertain times, with some taking the whole situation in stride, and others feeling like they’ve been left behind, and as a result, our typical behaviors have changed to suit a very different situation than what we’re used to.

One of the biggest places that this shift is apparent is within the cannabis industry, where businesses have been hurled into the spotlight as essential services, and they’re serving customers who are also struggling to wade their way through this new normal. Some have reduced incomes, and many live with a heightened sense of fear, leading to a host of consumer behavior adjustments like the ones you’ll find listed here.

1. Price is much more important than it once was

The average person lives from paycheck to paycheck, and with the mass shutdowns, many cannabis consumers have found themselves much shorter on cash than they once were. Though an enticing price is always helpful when selling cannabis products, now cost-effective solutions are the only thing that most consumers are seeking, leaving high-cost options sitting on the shelves as they are quickly forgotten out of necessity.

2. Bulk buying

Often when buying weed, the price is in line with the quantity, but the cost isn’t the only thing that’s driving this consumer behavior, as many are running on reduced paychecks, but they’re also afraid to go out any more than necessary. In addition to all that, the fear of losing dispensary access due to an outbreak lingers, leaving many uncertain of what the future may bring, which leads us to a problematic point for many dispensaries.

3. Infrequent dispensary visits

With a reduced paycheck, bulk buying and fear comes a reduction in the in-store presence of customers, and this is hitting dispensary owners hard. The more high-end cannabis products and impulse buys are no longer selling at the pace that they were once expected, which is leaving dispensary owners without a significant chunk of their revenue. Unfortunately, this is likely to continue, which is why so many pot shops are moving towards online models for interacting with consumers.

4. Opting for weed delivery and pick up services

Speaking of the online presence that has been thrust upon the cannabis industry at a time where advertising is not yet accepted on a large scale, brings us to the next consumer behavior that’s changed, which is the way that users are buying cannabis. Most cannabis enthusiasts are now opting for services such as weed delivery or curbside pickup whenever possible to avoid human contact, as it has become part of our daily routines to do so, which brings us to our next point.

5. The black market is looking even more enticing

Legal dispensaries are often bound by various rules that dictate what services they can offer to consumers, and in some areas, they can’t do things like deliver which forces customers who don’t want to shop in-store to turn towards online vendors that can easily be found through platforms like Weedmaps. The black market will deliver even the most banned cannabis goods, which is why many consumers are reverting to illegal vendors for their supply.

6. No more sharing

One of the first things that most stoners learn when they figure out how to smoke weed is the saying ‘sharing is caring’ because it’s a cultural belief that runs deep in the nature of most consumers. Enjoying a good buzz is always better when you’re not alone, but COVID-19 has changed all of that. Though some stoners are still sharing with friends, most are toking along at home out of fear of catching or spreading the illness, so stoner parties with friends are off the agenda for the time being.

7. Smokable cannabis products are no longer the most popular

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that significantly impacts the lungs, and this has a lot more consumers on edge about the riskier methods of ingestion. So, while cannabis flower remains one of the highest used and sold products on the market today, they are quickly being overtaken with other more health conscientious choices such as vaping, edibles or topicals. All of which are considered to be much less damaging on the lungs and most of them have effects that last longer.

8. Consumers are much less likely to try something new

Now that a good chunk of the population is relying on different types of government assistance just to stay afloat, there isn’t much for money to waste in the average person’s budget on products that might not work for their needs. This has led to a significant decrease in sales of newer cannabis options on the legal market, which were supposed to be a saving grace for many Canadian dispensaries to rake in additional revenue.

9. Cannabis enthusiasts are taking up growing

Consumer’s behaviors have changed in many areas to adapt a more simplified lifestyle that allows us to stay at home or in safer spaces whenever possible, and with long lineups and masks at stores, more and more cannabis users are choosing to grow their own at home. It reduced the need to visit a store, cuts the cost of consumption by more than half, and it’s something that’s fun and legal to do, but whether or not this will cut into the future profits of cannabis companies, is still largely unknown.

10. Customers are doing their research

A lot of pre-prohibition consumers barely learned how to smoke weed with assistance, and from there, we were left to feel out the rest of the cannabis world all on our own. Very few enthusiasts were educated on the various effects, differences, and importance of picking the right strains and products, but all of that has changed now that so much thought has to be put into a single transaction. When you no longer have budtenders to rely on or an in-person viewing to rely on, it seems that consumers are more motivated to learn about what it is that they’re buying and using.

Cannabis education will take a massive hit due to COVID19

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